Friday, December 14, 2007

To Sir, with Love

. . . in the immortal words of Lulu.

This tempest in a teapot from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, via Negrophile:

[School board member] Elliott has drawn heat for an opinion piece that ran Dec. 4 on the Speaking Out page of the Democrat and Chronicle, which in part said:

The reason it is important to have more teachers of color to teach students of color has more to do with 'universality of experience' which, in the case of African Americans, is based on race.

African Americans continue to fight to overcome the ill effects of slavery and segregation, Elliott wrote, and as a result, non-black teachers could be less likely to understand, communicate with or be sensitive to how students of color engage in learning as a result of that experience.

How could anyone disagree? I'm down with Ms. Elliott (I would add that Black children need to see Black leadership everywhere, not just at school--yes, there need to be Black teachers and Black principals at school, but Black children also need to see Black doctors at the hospital; Black lawyers and judges in the court room; and Black city council members and mayors and governors and legislators in city, state, and federal government). Racism is so pervasive, so insidious, so institutionalized, so much a part of white American life that it is so very difficult for many white people to even begin to have any kind of understanding of the Black American experience.

Did anyone protest when a white woman said something similar about six months ago?
Over 40 percent of public school children are members of “minority groups;” only about 17 percent of their teachers are black, Hispanic, or Asian. This imbalance in ethnicity and gender compromises the role model that teachers can offer to poor children of color, particularly black and Hispanic males.
Remember this:
Black students are suspended far more frequently than white students ("No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the federal data show. . . Yet black students are no more likely to misbehave than other students from the same social and economic environments, research studies have found") even though they do not misbehave more frequently.
Who is suspending the Black children? Teachers who do not understand them, teachers who bring their own mistaken (racist) perceptions into the classroom, teachers who in all likelihood would bristle in outrage if accused of racism, and yet, and yet. . . .it takes so much to scrub that culturally inherited filth from one's soul. How many have the courage to face themselves and their privilege and acknowledge that the privilege and wealth of the some were bought with the suffering of others.

P.S. The whiteys across the Big Pond are facing the same challenge:

In London, [MP Diane Abbott] added, just 12 per cent of teachers were black while in some areas half the children were. On Saturday a black teachers' network will be launched to provide support to teachers but also encourage them to explain cultural differences to their non-black colleagues.

According to Abbott, some white teachers misunderstand the way that black boys behave, seeing them as aggressive because of a 'culture gap', while others stereotype pupils.

One other great thing Tavis Smiley said (he also said he stole it from Cornel West): In order to lead, you have to love.

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